Heemskerck, 1498 – Haarlem, 1574
Painter, draftsman and designer of prints, he was born in the town of Heemskerck, from where he took his surname.
He was trained, according to his biographer Van Mander, in Haarlem with Cornelis Willemsz and continued his apprenticeship with Jan Lucasz in Delft.
On the return of Jan van Scorel from Italy, Heemskerck is documented in his workshop between 1527 and 1530, where he copied the style of this artist three years his senior.
Van Scorel’s influence on Heemskerck was intense at this stage, making it difficult to attribute some of his oil paintings.
He belonged to the second generation of Dutch artists who traveled to Italy; he is documented in the city of Rome in 1532.
During the years that he stayed there he studied the frescoes of Raphael and Michelangelo and made numerous drawings of sculptures, views of cities and classical ruins, of which two interesting notebooks are preserved in Berlin.
The work of Michelangelo deeply impressed him, the imprint of him being appreciated in the paintings he made in Holland a little later.
On the way back to Haarlem he probably visited Mantua, where he studied the work that Giulio Romano had done at the Palazzo Te.
At the beginning of 1537 he was in Haarlem, where he combined his professional activity with various positions in the Guild of Saint Luke, of which he was dean in 1553 and 1554.
He remarried a wealthy woman, whose fortune provided the artist with financial security and a good social position.
Except for a short stay in Amsterdam, where he took refuge during the Spanish siege of Haarlem, Heemskerck spent the rest of his life in this city.
A good portraitist, he also cultivated history painting. Among his best works are the 1529 portrait of Anna Codde from the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam; Saint Luke painting the Virgin, from 1532, in the Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem, or the Self-portrait of him, with the Colosseum in the background, in the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.
Many of his paintings are reproduced in engravings, enjoying a great diffusion.